Coral Springs (FL) – A TG Daily reader saw our previous Circuit City article. He sent in detailed events of something which took place last Nov 28. On that Black Friday, a local CC advertisement indicated a HP Pavilion G50-108NR notebook could be purchased for $399 after $150 mail-in rebate (original $549). After ordering it online with a “24-minute in-store pickup guarantee,” the consumer went to get it only to find the store supervisor attempted to charge the consumer for things he didn’t order. When confronted, the manager refused to honor the sale for the advertised price.
System optimization and installed software
When this consumer arrived at the store he presented the online order to the pickup counter clerk who went and got his equipment. The clerk asked, “Would you like anything else?” After getting a web camera and returning to the pickup area, another clerk began to ring him up. The consumer indicated he already had a web order and the new clerk went and got that as well.
After the credit card was scanned and the receipt was printed, the consumer was getting ready to sign it. He noticed it was about $184 more than expected even when factoring in the up-front cost of the $150 mail-in rebate.
When asked “Why the extra expense?” the new clerk turned to the original clerk. After a brief consultation, she came back and asked the consumer if the original clerk had explained the additional charges incurred due to Circuit City pre-optimizing the notebook? The consumer said, “I didn’t order or want the optimization.” She continued to explain that it had already been installed. As such, he was required to pay the full amount of the installation if he wanted the purchase.
At this point the notebook order had already been placed online and held with a credit card for the advertised amount of $549. These were new charges showing up at the store.
After insisting that at no point and time did the consumer authorize or agree to pay for the add-on features, the sales clerk gave him three options:
1) Order the notebook without the features and wait for the order to come in (because that was the only one they had in stock);
2) Cancel the order;
3) Find another notebook in the store and buy it.
The consumer then asked to speak to the manager, at which time the first clerk told him that she was supervisor and there was nothing she could do because the notebook already had the work performed on it.
[On a personal side note, the author of this article (me, Rick) purchased a Toshiba notebook at a Circuit City in San Francisco last year during Fall IDF. At that store something similar happened. The only notebook they had left in stock of that particular model (except the display model) was the one I was about to purchase. It already had the optimization and software installed and is apparently part of the normal course of business at Circuit City (such as each new notebook gets it whether it’s asked for or not). However, I absolutely refused to pay for those charges and was prepared to walk out right then and there without buying it. At that point, this particular Circuit City manager did agree to waive the add-on’s expense and sold me the notebook for the in-store price. It was a very pleasant Circuit City experience, and one which indicates that such decisions are at the discretion of the store manager.]
Calling customer support
The consumer called the main customer service number and the customer service representative (CSR) pulled up the order. He agreed that the order did not include any additional items. After a 44 minute call whereby the CSR switched back and forth between the consumer and the store manager directly, he told the consumer that the store should give him the notebook for the price he purchased it for online. That was the advertisement, that was what he ordered online, and that was what he agreed to.
However, the CSR also explained to the consumer that the store manager had refused to agree with this. The CSR also explained there was nothing he (the CSR) could do about it. In the end, the consumer was forced to choose something other than his wishes and the agreed upon arrangement prior to going to pick up his notebook at the physical store.
Ultimately, the consumer chose option 3) above and ended up finding another notebook in the store. He paid a little more than planned and considers the whole affair a negative blot against Circuit City.
The consumer’s concerns over these obvious bait-and-switch tactics prompted him to contact TG Daily’s Hodgin about the incident – especially after reading the other article. And, TG Daily relays this information to the consumer base so they can make informed decisions about companies that are actively engaging in “shady business practices” like these.
Opinion: In the world of consumer retail, it often seems that businesses have the upper-hand because people want the thing. It’s no longer a matter of what’s right, but rather what can be gotten away with.